Marty, Smith and Apple, put their plan into action, transforming it back into the gorgeous, award winning golf course it used to be. Hall of Fame golfer Johnny Miller and Gene Bates originally designed the prestigious golf course that sprawls across more than 250 acres. At one time, Golf Digest ranked it a “Top 75 Public Golf Course.”
Marty explained, “I have known Chip [Smith] for over 15 years, and I have seen his visions for top golf courses become a reality across the nation. As a resident of Wellington, I saw a growing need for an exclusive and quality golf country club, and I am proud to partner with him on this endeavor to return Binks to its former glory.”
Marty was speaking of John F. Smith, III or Chip as everybody knows him. The 36-year-resident of the Myrtle Beach area, has built various business interests throughout the years including Strategic Marketing, Inc., a full service advertising agency he started in 1983. Today the agency has a number of regional and national clients. He founded Partners Pharmacy Services in 2002, which was an institutional pharmacy serving nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
Golf-wise, Smith took on the project at the Tournament Players Club (TPC) of Myrtle Beach which sold in 2015 as the only Golf Digest 5* course in Myrtle Beach. He has been involved in various community boards and committees such as board member on the Coastal Carolina University Educational Foundation and Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday.
Marty and Smith, as you might expect, met on the golf course. While Smith was at TPC, he also helped build the facility for the Coastal Carolina University’s golf team. Marty’s son was a baseball player for the university, and they met at various athletic events.
“After being friends for years, Doug called me and said that he was interested in purchasing a golf course and asked me to fly down to Florida. The project really has turned out to be something very special,” Smith said.
The process of getting the course back into golfing shape required minor tweaks in the design and reconditioning. The hardest aspect of getting the Wellington National course ready for the public went to one of the partners and agronomist, Andy Apple.
“I knew it was not going to be easy,” Apple laughed. “I didn’t know the extent of it, but it turned out to be tougher than I had first envisioned. Mainly I was focused on weed eradication and trying to reclaim some of the areas. It is an ongoing process but we’re in a good place right now as the course is now in excellent condition.”
Apple has 34 years of experience in the golf industry with an exceptional background in golf course project, program and operations management. After receiving his degree from North Carolina State University in 1982, Apple’s career began at Greensboro Country Club in Greensboro, NC. His agronomic style focuses on firm, consistent playing conditions ensuring each golfer has the same experience. Golf course esthetics and presentation are foundational to present a course in tournament condition daily.
According to Apple, taking care of the land and conserving water is a very important factor going into the rebuild of Wellington National. Depending on the weather, the facility uses a wetting agent on very dry areas to help the ground hold moisture. With fall approaching, he also plans on mowing the greens down with the goal to have them rolling around an 11 or 12 on the Stempmeter.
And with the new course up and ready to go, how good a golfer do you have to be to play at Wellington National? “Members can have varying levels of experience because there are four sets of tees which allows the golfer to adjust to their level of play,” according to Smith. “It is tight off the tee as far as your landing area, so you do have to be pretty accurate with your shot. We want it to be a good experience for all our members.”
The team at WNGC began to take shape in the spring of 2016, beginning with top golf professional Brett Carman, who relocated to Wellington after seeing the plans to revamp and renovate. The trio then secured the services of Membership Director Julie Pickens, whose impeccable resume includes stints with the International Polo Club Palm Beach, The Breakers Palm Beach and Morton’s Steak House. And finally, for food, catering and special events, the popular duo of Aaron Menitoff and Julie Larson will oversee the full service catering.